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How to start Setup from MS-DOS in Windows Server 2003

Support for Windows Server 2003 ended on July 14, 2015

Microsoft ended support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

The Windows Server 2003 family does not include Setup boot floppy disks. This article describes how to start Windows Server 2003 Setup from an MS-DOS command line.

Prepare a Startup Disk

Create a Microsoft Windows 98 or Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me) Startup disk with which to partition and format the hard disk on which you want to install Windows Server 2003. To do this:
  1. Click Start, point to Settings, click Control Panel, and then double-click Add/Remove Programs.
  2. Click the Startup Disk tab, and then click Create Disk.
  3. Insert a blank formatted floppy disk into drive A, and then click OK.

Prepare to Run Setup

Before you install Windows Server 2003:
  1. Verify that your computer hardware is compatible with Windows Server 2003. For the latest compatibility information, and to download and install drivers for the listed hardware, visit the following Microsoft Windows Hardware Quality Labs Web site:

    To view the system requirements for Windows Server 2003, visit the following Microsoft. Web site:
  2. Read the following documents on the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM (where Drive is the drive that contains the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM). These documents contain information to help you prepare for the installation.
    • Drive:\Docs\Read1st.txt:

      This contains critical last-minute information that was not included in the documentation or any other .txt file on the CD-ROM.
    • Drive:\Docs\RelNotes.htm:

      This contains the Windows Server 2003 release notes.
  3. Create a partition on the hard disk, and then format it with the FAT32 file system.

    For additional information about how to create and format a partition, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    255867 How to use the Fdisk Tool and the Format tool to partition or repartition a hard disk
    Note that Windows Server 2003 Setup requires at least 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available hard disk space for Setup.

Start Windows Server 2003 Setup from MS-DOS

  1. Insert the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM into your computer's CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.
  2. Start the computer to an MS-DOS prompt with CD-ROM support. If there is no option to start to an MS-DOS prompt on the startup menu, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    187632 How to create a Windows 98 startup disk that supports FAT32
  3. Start SMARTDrive if it is not already started. To do this, navigate to the folder that contains the Smartdrv.exe file, type smartdrv, and then press ENTER.

    If you do not use SMARTDrive, you may notice that the portion of Windows Server 2003 Setup that copies files to the hard disk performs slowly.
  4. At the command prompt, type drive:, and then press ENTER (where drive is the drive that contains the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM).
  5. Type cd\i386, and then press ENTER.
  6. Type winnt, and then press ENTER.

    Windows Server 2003 Setup starts.
  7. Type the path to the Windows Server 2003 installation files, and then press ENTER. For example, type e:\i386.

    Windows Setup copies files to the hard disk. When the files are copied, you receive the following message:
    The MS-DOS based portion of Setup is complete.Setup will now restart your computer. After your computer restarts,Windows Setup will continue.If there is a floppy disk in drive A:, remove it now.Press ENTER to restart your computer and continue Windows Setup.
  8. Remove any floppy disks from the computer, and then press ENTER. The computer restarts and Windows Server 2003 Setup resumes. Press ENTER to continue.
  9. Format a partition on which to install Windows Server 2003. To do this, note the following:
    • If your hard disk contains only one partition, do not delete it from the list of existing partitions. Windows Server 2003 Setup has copied the installation files to this partition.
    • You can later convert a FAT32-formatted partition to the NTFS file system.
    • Setup copies the files needed for Windows Server 2003 Setup, and then the computer restarts.
    • If you chose to format the drive with the NTFS file system, Windows checks the drive for errors, and then restarts.
    • Windows Server 2003 Setup resumes in Graphical User Interface (GUI) mode.
  10. Follow the steps in the Windows Setup Wizard to complete the installation of Windows Server 2003.


  • Formatting with the FAT16 File system:

    Although you can install Windows Server 2003 on a hard disk formatted with the FAT16 file system, Microsoft recommends that you use the FAT32 file system when you install Windows Server 2003 from an MS-DOS command line. The FAT16 file system supports partitions only up to 2 GB. After the file-copying portion of Setup completes, and when Setup continues after the computer restarts, you can convert the FAT file system to the NTFS file system.
  • Windows Setup proceeds slowly:

    If you start Windows Server 2003 Setup from a command prompt without first starting the SMARTDrive program, you may notice that the installation of Windows Server 2003 proceeds very slowly, and it may appear to stop responding (hang) at some points. However, if you wait, Setup completes successfully.

    For additional information, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    296814 Setup stops responding (hangs) during file copy
  • You receive "Out of Memory" error messages during Setup:

    Windows Server 2003 Setup requires 440 kilobytes (KB) of available memory in which to run when you start Setup from an MS-DOS command prompt. To increase the amount of available memory for Setup, use the Expanded Memory Manager (Emm386.exe) program in the Config.sys file of the Startup disk, and then load device drivers into upper-memory areas.
  • The CD-ROM drive is not recognized:

    The Windows 98 and Windows Me Startup disks contain a default set of CD-ROM device drivers. If your CD-ROM drive is not detected, contact your hardware vendor to obtain MS-DOS drivers for the CD-ROM drive. Alternately, if you have MS-DOS network drivers installed, you can copy the Windows Server 2003 i386 folder to the local hard disk, and then run Setup.

    For information about how to contact your computer manufacturer, visit the following Web site: Microsoft provides third-party contact information to help you find technical support. This contact information may change without notice. Microsoft does not guarantee the accuracy of this third-party contact information.

Article ID: 810562 - Last Review: 11/27/2007 07:08:40 - Revision: 9.6

Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition (32-bit x86), Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Web Edition, Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition (32-bit x86)

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